Thursday 22 August 2019

Abortion debate must be conducted with dignity

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has more reason than most to be wary of taking on the issue of abortion. His party lost five TDs and two senators - including the then minister Lucinda Creighton - in 2013 when they defied a party whip to vote against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. The Bill allows abortion in limited circumstances. But pressure from Labour and some of his own key lieutenants has forced him into setting up a commission to examine the question.

Fine Gael members will then have a free vote. Fianna Fáil has followed suit by confirming that the party's TDs and senators will also be allowed to vote with their consciences on any repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

This gives equal protection to the life of the mother and her unborn child and is seen as preventing abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The issue is destined to be a burning topic in the imminent General Election. When it comes to elections, and questions of morality, expedience and cold pragmatism usually hold sway.

Thus, divisive topics are dodged or deflected.

Ireland has already had three referendums on the right to life and now appears to be heading inexorably towards a fourth. Any question that affects the viability of a life must be examined with total objectivity.

But experience tells us this is not something we can expect. "I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born"; "No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body." These two quotes, the first by Ronald Reagan, and the second from Margaret Sanger, illustrate just how polarising the matter is.

In the past, high emotion and hysteria have clouded debate, and the decibel level at which it was conducted also mitigated against clarity. And whatever one's position, clarity is crucial. Doctors must know where they stand. The more difficult an issue is to decide, the more important that it is embraced with dignity.

Irish Independent

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